Every January, unbeknownst to most wine consumers, a group of wine writers, sommeliers, and other wine industry professionals spend many the entire month doing nothing but tasting Pinot Noir. Over many successive days, through rigorous double-blind tastings, these judges whittle down hundreds of Pinot Noirs from all over the world to a select final few.
This process is called the Pinot Noir Shootout, and it is put on every year by an organization called Affairs of The Vine. I have participated as a judge for the last two years and lived to tell the tale. It’s a pretty difficult process. Unlike normal wine judging where judges must simply apply a score to each of hundreds of wines, judges for the Shootout must do careful sensory analysis and record full and robust tasting notes for every wine they taste. It’s rough going, but someone’s gotta do it.
The cool thing about the process is that at the end, the public gets to taste the results at an event called the Pinot Noir Summit, which happens to be going on this Saturday at the Officer’s club in Fort Mason. Along with the opportunity to taste blind the top 40 wines from all of the judging sessions held throughout January as well as hundreds of other Pinot Noirs, participants can also attend their choice of two different seminars, all the while snacking on various bites and nibbles from local food purveyors.
This event has a distinctly different format and atmosphere from most of the other public wine tasting events on offer in San Francisco. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a judge at a wine tasting, this might be an opportunity for you to give it a try without the commitment and responsibility. Or you could just go drink some good Pinot.
The Fifth Annual Pinot Noir Summit
Saturday, February 10, 2007 ~ Noon to 7:30 p.m.
The Officers’ Club
1 Fort Mason (Franklin and Bay streets)
San Francisco, CA
Tickets are $100.00 per Person and can be purchased online. The ticket price includes attendance to two workshops. Current offerings (subject to change at the last minute) include:
Here Comes the Clone ~ Discussion and tasting
Food and Pinot Noir Pairing ~ An exploration of the classic pairings
The Fashion of Pinot Noir ~ Who’s driving the fashion?
A Question of Style ~ Winemaker panel will discuss their “style” and tasting
Discover the Velvet ~ A Vertical Tasting
Understanding Pinot Envy ~ Identifying Aromas & Flavors in Pinot Noir
Discovering New Stars ~ An introduction and tasting of wines
Location, Location, Location ~ An exploration of appellations